Tag: autonomous cars

My Prediction About Autonomous Cars

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You’ve been hearing a lot about autonomous, self-driving cars lately. Here I take a look at where we are, when we’ll get there, and how it will change the world.

Our transportation system is due for a massive disruption and it’s coming in the form of self-driving cars.

Autonomous cars have been in the works for a while now, with semi-autonomous options like collision avoidance, traffic-aware cruise control, and lane keeping becoming more and more common in even mid and low-price cars.

But thanks to companies like MobileEye, Cruise Automation, and Tesla, we are on the cusp of full Level 4 autonomy in the next few years. In fact, Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and more carmakers are planning to release fully autonomous cars in the years 2021 to 2025.

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft stand the most to gain by this transition, which, according to technologist Tony Seba, will see the end of individual ownership of cars and become a Transportation as a Service model, where almost all travel is carried out through autonomous, shared vehicles.

And when these companies begin buying up fleets of self-driving cars, the cars they will lean on will be electric vehicles, due to the cheaper cost of electricity and the lower maintenance costs, as shown by the company Tesloop and their Tesla Model X that recently hit 350,000 miles.

Combine that with the lower cost of solar PV panels and Lithium-ion batteries, and we are setting the stage for a disruption of our transportation system like we’ve never seen before.

Walmart Agrees To Work With Ford On Self-Driving Grocery Deliveries

Ford is working with Postmates and Walmart on a pilot program for self-driving grocery deliveries, the companies announced on Wednesday.

We are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items,” Ford said in a press release.

The grocery delivery pilot experiment will be based in Miami, where Ford’s self-driving car company, Argo, is already testing self-driving vehicles. Ford had been testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates prior to this announcement.

Like most car companies, Ford is racing to develop fully autonomous vehicle technology. But Ford has been more proactive than most of its competitors in exploring the non-technical aspects of a self-driving car service.

Last year, I got to sit in the seat suit of a fake self-driving car Ford was using to test pedestrian reactions to self-driving car technology.

Ford also experimented with delivering pizzas with mock-driverless vehicles in a partnership with Dominos.




Ford’s collaboration with Postmates over the last few months has been focused on figuring out the best way for customers to interact with a delivery vehicle.

Driverless cars won’t have a driver to carry deliveries to the customer’s door, so self-driving vehicles will need some kind of locker that customers can open to remove their merchandise.

Ford has been experimenting with multi-locker delivery vans, allowing its cars to serve multiple customers on a single trip—without worrying about one customer swiping another’s deliveries.

Ford also announced last month that Washington, DC would be the second city where Argo will be preparing to launch a commercial service in 2021 (in addition to Miami).

Ford has worked hard to cultivate relationships with local government officials, with Mayor Muriel Bowser attending last month’s announcement on DC’s waterfront.

Ford is betting that all of these preparations will help the company scale up quickly once its self-driving technology is ready.

That’s important because Ford appears to be significantly behind the market leaders: Waymo (which is aiming to launch a commercial service this year) and GM’s Cruise (aiming to launch in 2019).

But it’s also a risky strategy because if Argo’s technology isn’t ready on time, then all of Ford’s careful planning could turn out to be wasted effort.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Google’s Self-Driving Cars Rack Up 3 Million Simulated Miles Every Day

Google uses its giant data centers to simulate 3 million miles of autonomous driving per day, the company has revealed in its monthly autonomous driving status report.

That’s a really long way — like driving more than 500 round trips between NYC and LA — but it actually makes a lot of sense. Americans drove some 2.7 trillion miles in the year 2000 alone and Google needs all the data it can get to teach its cars how to drive safely.

The real advantage comes when Google’s engineers want to tweak the algorithms that control its autonomous cars.




Before it rolls out any code changes to its production cars (22 Lexus SUVs and 33 of its prototype cars, split between fleets in Mountain View and Austin), it “re-drives” its entire driving history of more than 2 million miles to make sure everything works as expected.

Then, once it finally goes live, Google continues to test its code with 10-15,000 miles of autonomous driving each week.

The simulations also allow Google to create new scenarios based on real-world situations — adjusting the speeds of cars at a highway merge to check performance, for example.

Engineers can then design fixes and improvements and check them in the simulator, ensuring that things are as operating as safely as possible before Google’s cars make it out onto real roads.

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Changing Lanes Is Simple For Human Drivers. Not So For Autonomous Cars.

A driver sits engrossed in her laptop screen, catching up on emails as the car barrels down the highway. In the next lane, a father helps his kids finish homework while their vehicle swiftly changes lanes.

Nearby, an empty car returns home after dropping off its owner.—

These are the self-driving cars in which humans can be mindlessly commuting in as few as five years, some ambitious estimates claim.

It’s a highly disruptive technology that’s coming on a lot faster than people expect,” says Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence.

He helps governments and companies prepare for the advent of automated vehicles.

Many automakers and tech firms have already entered the driverless car manufacturing game. Now it’s a race to perfect the technology and start selling these Knight Rider-style vehicles.




Companies hype the cars as the best safety feature since seatbelts and airbags, but there’s a sense that phasing driverless cars onto public roads may be anything but a smooth transition.

Self-driving car advocates, like Kirk, believe in the technology’s potential to save thousands of lives.

Humans, generally, are poor drivers,” he says. He would like to see human drivers banned from roads to make room for an all-automated-vehicle world.

Drivers’ mistakes are responsible for more than 90 per cent of crashes, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found.

Kirk hopes automated vehicles can eliminate 80 per cent of such collisions — a number often cited by advocates.

In 2012, 2,077 people died in car crashes on Canadian roads, according to Transport Canada. If Kirk’s estimate holds, about 1,500 of those victims could have avoided an accident.

If you’re got a whole bunch of sensors that give you a 360-degree scan, 30 times a second,” he says, “humans can not come anywhere close to that.

There will be time to adjust before the new fleet of robot cars takes over roads.

We’re not going to be in a situation where we go from no automation to fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles,” says David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada.

Some people already own low-level autonomous vehicles, like ones that parallel park once the driver has properly aligned it. Some U.K. cities have started experimenting with low-speed self-driving shuttles on closed streets.

Even if safety is somewhat disputed, there are other potential benefits that can make the pursuit of these cars worth it.

Seniors, disabled people and others unable to drive will gain mobility. Families may need to own fewer cars if vehicles can travel empty to pick up and drop off family members.

Cities may require fewer parking spaces if cars can return home after dropping off owners.

But to see all those benefits and ensure safety isn’t compromised, these cars must be carefully brought into the public realm, says Shladover.

It has to be done in a sensible way.

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MIT Invented A Tool That Allows Driverless Cars To Navigate Rural Roads Without A Map

Google has spent the last 13 years mapping every corner and crevice of the world.

Car makers haven’t got nearly as long a lead time to perfect the maps that will keep driverless cars from sliding into ditches or hitting misplaced medians if they want to meet their optimistic deadlines.

This is especially true in rural areas where mapping efforts tend to come last due to smaller demand versus cities.

It’s also a more complicated task, due to a lack of infrastructure (i.e. curbs, barriers, and signage) that computers would normally use as reference points.

That’s why a student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) is developing new technology, called MapLite, that eliminates the need for maps in self-driving car technology altogether.




This could more easily enable a fleet-sharing model that connects carless rural residents and would facilitate intercity trips that run through rural areas.

In a paper posted online on May 7 by CSAIL and project partner Toyota, 30-year-old PhD candidate Teddy Ort—along with co-authors Liam Paull and Daniela Rus—detail how using LIDAR and GPS together can enable self-driving cars to navigate on rural roads without having a detailed map to guide them.

The team was able to drive down a number of unpaved roads in rural Massachusetts and reliably scan the road for curves and obstacles up to 100 feet ahead, according to the paper.

Our method makes no assumptions about road markings and only minimal assumptions about road geometry,” wrote the authors in their paper.

Once the technology is perfected, proponents argue that autonomous cars could also help improve safety on rural roads by reducing the number of impaired and drowsy drivers, eliminating speeding, and detecting and reacting to obstacles even on pitch-black roads.

Ort’s algorithm isn’t commercializable yet; he hasn’t yet tested his algorithm in a wide variety of road conditions and elevations.

Still, if only from an economic perspective it’s clear repeatedly visually capturing millions of miles of roads to train cars how to drive autonomously isn’t going to be winning mapping technology for AVs; it’s just not feasible for most organizations.

Whether it’s Ort’s work, or end-to-end machine learning, or some other technology that wins the navigation race for autonomous vehicles, it’s important to remember that maps are first and foremost a visual tool to aid sighted people in figuring out where to go.

Like humans, a car may not necessarily need to “see” to get to where it’s going—it just needs to sharpen its other senses.

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GM Faces Lawsuit Over Self-Driving Car Collision

Self-driving car manufacturers dread lawsuits over crashes due to questions of liability, and GM is about to learn just how problematic they can be.

Oscar Nilsson has sued GM after a December collision between his motorcycle and one of the company’s self-driving Chevy Bolts.

According to his version of events, he was trailing the Bolt when it started changing lanes.




He tried to pass the autonomous car, but it “suddenly” swerved back into his lane, knocking him to the ground and injuring both his neck and shoulder.

GM, not surprisingly, disagreed with the interpretation in a statement.

It pointed to the San Francisco Police Department’s collision report, which didn’t lay blame but said that Nilsson merged into the Bolt’s lane “before it was safe to do so.

There have certainly been disputes over the involvement of self-driving technology in crashes — just ask Tesla.

Those incidents involved semi-autonomous cars where the human driver was always expected to share some responsibility, though, rather than fully autonomous vehicles where a human only serves as backup.

And that makes cases like this problematic. If GM bears any responsibility at all, was it the fault of the developers, or the backup driver for not spotting the abrupt move?

The lawsuit won’t completely settle the question, but it may lay the groundwork for future suits.

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Pass it on: Popular Science